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A beer expert mixes it up with some unique beer cocktails
There are a lot of boozy movements out there these days. You've got your craft cocktail movement, your craft beer movement and your craft beer cocktail movement. Wait, what was that last one? You heard me right! And we're talking about much more than a michelada.
At the forefront of this movement, which has gained a lot of momentum of late, is my friend and fellow beer blogger, Ashley Routson — she's known as the Beer Wench by most. As she tells it, beer cocktails have become what they are today because of the the intersection of the craft beer movement and the craft cocktail movement.
"The foundation, the reason for [the craft beer movement's] evolution and rapid growth has been and continues to be innovation," Ashley said. "Mixing beer into craft cocktails only seems like the next logical step on the path of brewing innovation."
I'm game! So, I asked Ashley to share some of her favorite beer cocktail recipes with me. She did and I gave them a whirl — in my own special way. My husband and a friend acted as my unbiased judges.
Click here to find the Dark and Stoutly, the Liquid Pie, and more craft beer cocktails.
— Clare Goggin Sivits, Snooth
The Low-ABV Cocktail Movement
Now drunk the world over, the aperitif has become a source of professional inspiration for today’s bartenders, who relish the opportunity to play with subtler and more versatile flavors. Never too sweet, strong or heavy, and built around the refreshing traits of effervescence and palate-priming subtlety, it is a style of drink that is as broad as it is versatile. And now, it’s grown beyond the French tradition of a late afternoon or early evening pick-me-up into something ripe for riffing.
“On a creative level, aperitifs and low-alcohol cocktails present a new format for us to play with,” says LA-based bar owner Alex Day. “You can strip away the strong personality of a high-proof spirit and begin exploring flavors in different ways. It’s a whole new avenue for creating cocktails.”
In many ways, the modern low-ABV movement mirrors comparable trends in the craft beer and wine spheres, which have begun steering away from over-the-top, shock-and-awe experimentation in favor of nuance.
How did we get here? Newfound access to previously unavailable ingredients, an overdue embrace of more moderate drinking habits and macro shifts in American craft cocktail culture at large all have something to do with it.
But really, it all started with what bottles were available in the bartender’s arsenal. Over the last decade, high-quality vermouths and liqueurs have reentered the market en masse, thanks to curious bartenders and importers eager to bridge the gap between America and Europe, the aperitif’s ancestral home. As a result, we’re currently amid an ever-evolving renaissance of once-forgotten ingredients (such as the French liqueurs New York’s Will Elliott incorporates into his classically bitter aperitif, The Shining Path.)
Three sessionable cocktails: Greg Best's A Scented Stretch, left Lysette, from Franky Marshall, center and The Shining Path from Will Elliott, right.
Such growth has not only manifested itself in a full spectrum of lo-fi creative cocktails but in well-informed bar guests. “The consumer base is just far more up-to-date, far more savvy,” says Atlanta-based Greg Best, who pours a variety of compelling low-ABV cocktails at his Ticonderoga Club.
Peruse any cocktail menu written by a session-minded bartender, and it’s easy to see that low-ABV creativity comes in all sorts of sizes, shapes and formats. The obvious place for these drink-makers to start is with historic drinks that fit the category. But they’re not limiting their experimentation to any parameters, beyond the use of subtler ingredients. Today, the low-ABV cocktail is stirred, shaken, swizzled and frozen.
“More than anything else, [an aperitif] just needs to have a good amount of complexity,” says Best. His A Scented Stretch is one such drink: Built on a base of white rum, it gets its sweetness from honey syrup and St-Germain, and its acidity from lemon juice and a shot of crisp white wine, while a splash of soda water and an aromatic sprig of Thai basil lengthen the cocktail without sacrificing flavor.
On a wider scale, attitudes toward consuming alcohol are changing, too. Quite simply, consumers want to drink differently, and have discovered the benefits of cocktails that offer both flavor and “sessionability”—that is, the ability to enjoy a few, over an extended period of time. After all, the low-ABV drink is as much about the ingredients as it is about the culture and sociability it inspires.
These hallmarks of the aperitif are the driving forces behind the Lysette, a three-ingredient cocktail as relevant for the home bartender as it is for the pro. “After all,” explains Brooklyn bartender Franky Marshall, “the less time you spend making drinks, the more time you have to enjoy good company.”
Bootleggers get creative
During Prohibition, the primary source of drinking alcohol was industrial alcohol – the kind used for making ink, perfumes and campstove fuel. About 3 gallons of faux gin or whiskey could be made from 1 gallon of industrial alcohol.
The authors of the Volstead Act, the law enacted to carry out the 18th Amendment, had anticipated this: It required that industrial alcohol be denatured, which means that it’s been adulterated with chemicals that make it unfit to drink.
Bootleggers quickly adapted and figured out ways to remove or neutralize these adulterants. The process changed the flavor of the finished product – and not for the better. Poor quality notwithstanding, around one-third of the 150 million gallons of industrial alcohol produced in 1925 was thought to have been diverted to the illegal alcohol trade.
The next most common source of alcohol in Prohibition was alcohol cooked up in illegal stills, producing what came to be called moonshine. By the end of Prohibition, the Prohibition Bureau was seizing nearly a quarter-million illegal stills each year.
Orange County Sheriff’s deputies dump illegal booze in Santa Ana, Calif. in this 1932 photograph. (Orange County Archives, CC BY)
The homemade alcohol of this era was harsh. It was almost never barrel-aged and most moonshiners would try to mimic flavors by mixing in some suspect ingredients. They found they could simulate bourbon by adding dead rats or rotten meat to the moonshine and letting it sit for a few days. They made gin by adding juniper oil to raw alcohol, while they mixed in creosote, an antiseptic made from wood tar, to recreate scotch’s smokey flavor.
With few alternatives, these dubious versions of familiar spirits were nonetheless in high demand.
Bootleggers much preferred to trade in spirits than in beer or wine because a bottle of bootleg gin or whiskey could fetch a far higher price than a bottle of beer or wine.
Prior to Prohibition, distilled spirits accounted for less than 40 percent of the alcohol consumed in America. By the end of the “noble experiment” distilled spirits made up more than 75 percent of alcohol sales.
20 Beer Cocktails That'll Make Any Pregame a Turn-Up
Beer is great and all, but a beer cocktail is just better. Whether you're rocking a michelada at brekkie, a beergarita at happy hour, or a shandy at dinner time, these 20 drinks are sure to please.
Add 1 oz. fresh lime juice, 1 oz. Mole Poblana, 1 oz. tomato juice, 3 dashes chocolate bitters, and 1 oz. mezcal to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain into glass, and top with Negra Modelo beer. Garnish with chocolate spicy salt.
Shake 1 oz. Whole Leaf Gin, 1 oz. lemon juice, and 1 oz. simple syrup in a shaker for six seconds. Strain over ice in a glass, and add 4 oz. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. Gently stir to mix.
In a shaker, combine 1 oz. grapefruit-infused Aperol, 1 oz. pineapple rum, ½ oz. almond reduction, and 2 drops vanilla extract. Pour into a pint glass and top with IPA beer.
In a small mixing tin, combine 1 oz. Paul Beau VS Cognac, 1 oz. Orleans Herbal, ½ oz. Rhum JM Cane Syrup, ½ oz. orange juice, and ½ oz. lemon juice. Shake slightly, and top with 3½ oz. Ommegang Witte beer. Strain into a lowball glass with a large ice rock.
Recipe from Center Bar in New York City.
Combine 2 parts Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, ½ part lime juice, and ¼ part ginger syrup in a glass. Slowly pour half of any wheat beer into the glass. Add a few ice cubes, and finish pouring the beer.
Add 1 oz. Contratto, ½ oz. sweet vermouth, and ½ oz. dry vermouth to an ice-filled glass. Top with 1 can of Tecate pale lager, and garnish with an orange wheel.
Recipe by bartender Ivy Mix at DIEGO at the PUBLIC Hotel in New York City.
Combine 1 ½ oz. Tom's Town Corruption gin, ½ oz. simple syrup, ½ oz. lemon juice, and 1 T KC Canning Co. strawberry Champagne jam in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a 14-oz. glass with ice. Top with 1 can Boulevard Brewing Co. Jam Band Berry Ale and serve.
In a food processor or blender, puree 2 cups of raspberries until smooth. Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer, and discard the seeds. Add 2 cups of water and ¼ cup of sugar to the puree and stir. In a blender, combine the raspberry mixture with ½ cup tequila, 1 cup UFO Raspberry beer, and 3 T lime juice. Add 2 cups of ice. Blend until completely smooth. Pour into 4 glasses, and garnish with limes and raspberries.
In a Collins glass, muddle 8 sprigs fresh cilantro and 1 lime. Add ½ tsp. agave syrup, and fill with ice. Add 6 oz. Stella Artois Cidre, then stir thoroughly, and top with a splash of soda water.
Recipe from Stella Artois.
Combine 1 oz. fresh squeezed citrus juice (orange and lemon) with 3 oz. sweetened butterfly pea tea. Top with 4 oz. Blue Moon Belgian White. Serve over ice and orange slices, and garnish with an orange wheel.
Add 1.5 oz. Crown Royal Vanilla to 1 pint Pumpkin Ale, and serve in a pint glass.
In a glass, add 8 oz. Leinenkugel&rsquos Watermelon Shandy, 3 oz. ginger ale, a splash of simple syrup, and a splash of club soda. Garnish with a watermelon slice, lemon, lime, and orange.
In a pilsner glass filled with ice, add 1 1/2 oz. Svedka Strawberry Lemonade, 1 oz. iced tea, 1/2 oz. simple syrup, 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice, and a splash of Corona Extra. Stir briefly, and garnish with a slice of lemon and a strawberry.
In a glass filled with ice, add 4 oz. Austin Eastciders Blood Orange Cider, 1 ½ oz. bourbon, and 1 tbsp. agave. Top with 1 jalapeño slice, stir, and garnish with a lime slice.
In a large wine glass, combine 8 oz. lemonade with 8 oz. Stella Artois Cidre, and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Recipe from Stella Artois.
Pour 1 1/2 oz. Svedka Colada, 2 oz. lemonade, and the juice of 1 lemon wedge in a shaker. Add ice, and shake briefly. Strain into a pint glass, top with Corona Light, and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Combine 1 ½ oz. lime juice, ½ oz. agave nectar, and the zest of 1 lime in a glass. Add beer, stir gently, and garnish with a lime wheel.
Recipe from Stanton Social in New York City.
In a large wine glass, combine 4 oz. lemonade with 4 oz. iced tea. Add a splash (approx. 1 tsp.) of rosemary simple syrup, and top with 8 oz. Stella Artois Cidre. Garnish with lemon wheels and 1 sprig of rosemary.
Recipe from Stella Artois.
Muddle 4 raspberries, 6 blueberries, and 3 mint leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add 1 ½ oz. tequila silver and 1½ oz. sour mix, and shake. Strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with beer.
Recipe from Haven at The Sanctuary Hotel in New York City.
Mix ½ oz. simple syrup, ½ oz. fresh lemon juice, and ¾ oz. pineapple juice with 4 dashes of chai bitters. Shake dry. Pour over ice into a Collins glass, and top with Stella Artois Cidre. Garnish with a fresh lemon twist.
- Style: Imperial IPA
- Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, DE)
Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA pushes the boundaries of the IPA style.
This extreme beer is boiled for a full two hours while being continually hopped with high-alpha American hops. At 21% ABV and 120 IBU, this is one of the biggest IPA ever brewed!
For even more beer recipes, check out our 50 Craft Clones in 50 States and our homebrew recipes archive.
Recipes you want to make. Cooking advice that works. Restaurant recommendations you trust.
Best Bartender Tools & Cocktail Equipment
Before hosting a swanky Gay Pride Cocktail Party you’ll need to ensure you have the best bartender tools and cocktail equipment.
- : cocktail kits are the perfect gift for newbie mixology fans as they include basic bartender tools like a jigger, shaker and spoon.
- Cocktail Shaker: a bartenders best friend. Purchase a premium cocktail shaker to muddle or shake up your favourite pink gin cocktails.
- Cocktail Glassware: make sure your bar is stocked with a selection of unique glassware to show off your favourite cocktail creations. this unique strainer features tightly wound coils and perforated holes. It keeps ice and other large ingredients like lime wedges in your cocktail shaker rather than in the glass.
- Bar Spoons: slender and long bar spoons are a must-have when stirring drinks.
- Bottle Opener: easily open bottles of beer or cider with the flick of your wrist or purchase a corkscrew for fine wine. : once you’ve opened a new bottle of gin insert these affordable pourers to make cocktail assembly a breeze.
- Cutting Board: purchase a petite cutting board for your bar to slice garnishes or citrus wedges like lime, orange, lemon or grapefruit.
- Ice Bucket: chill bottles of gin quickly in an ice bucket or keep by the bar when muddling gin mixers into cool creations.
- Ice Crusher: fans of the Mint Julep love an ice crusher.
- Ice Cube Kit: we suggest purchasing a selection of ice cube trays. Silicone styles are our favourite as they’re easy to clean and are available in various shapes and sizes.
- Jigger: use a jigger to accurately measure spirits, juices, syrups and shrubs.
- Juicer: invest in an electronic juicer or buy an affordable hand-held to easily juice fresh citrus like lemons and limes.
- Muddler: fans of the Mojito love a sturdy muddler to mix mint and lime. Muddler’s are handy for any cocktail featuring ingredients that need a pounding like fresh herbs or citrus wedges.
- Citrus Peeler & Zester: adorn your craft cocktails with a thick citrus peel or finer ribbons of lime or lemon zest. : Bloody Mary and Caesar lovers should outfit their bar with a handy rimmer for salting and sugaring glassware.
Home Brew Mixology: 3 Craft Beer Cocktail Recipes
As the craft beer movement has taken the nation by storm, craft beer cocktails have made their way into bars and restaurants around the country. But you don’t have to go to the local pub for a good mixed drink. All you need is some home brew on hand and a few special ingredients to impress your friends with your new skill set: craft beer mixology.
Black and Tan
Ingredients: Home brewed Stout and Home brewed Pale Ale
Take an easy step into craft beer mixology with a Black and Tan! A simple combination of two beers, typically a stout and a pale ale, a Black and Tan is poured so that the dark beer floats on top of the light beer, creating a pretty cool visual effect! For best results, the top layer should have a lower specific gravity than the bottom layer. Guinness and Bass are often used, but for your own homemade spin we recommend the Brewer’s Best English Pale Ale and Irish Stout ingredient kits.
Directions: The trick with this mix is in the pour. Fill a glass halfway with your homemade pale ale, then turn a spoon upside-down and pour the stout gently over the spoon so that the dark beer sits on top of the light beer. Mess up the first one? Good thing you have half a bottle of each left over!
Tip: Use a chocolate stout, a rye pale ale, or any other combination of homebrews for your own unique variation!
The Honey Beer
Start flexing your mixology muscles by combining your home brewed pale ale with gin, lemon, honey, and salt. Imbibe Magazine and Jill Schuster supply this simple concoction:
- 1 1/2 oz. gin
- 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- Pale ale [preferably home brewed!]
- Ice cubes
- Tools: shaker, strainer
- Glass: pilsner
- Garnish: wildflower honey and kosher salt, to rim the glass lemon twist
Directions: “Dip half of the Pilsner rim in wildflower honey and then lightly in kosher salt. Shake all ingredients but beer. Strain over fresh ice into the prepared Pilsner glass. Top with beer and garnish with a lemon twist.”
Home Brew Michelada
If you like Bloody Mary’s, you have to try a Michelada. Originally a Mexican creation, the Michelada features lime, salt, tomato juice, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and a cold, light lager. We recommend you start with either the Muntons Mexican Cervesa or the Brewers Spring Mexican Lager beer kit for a south-of-the-border, salty, tangy refreshment.
Alison Roman, assistant food editor of Bon Appetit, shares the following recipe:
“Rub the rim of a pint glass with a lime wedge and dip in kosher salt fill glass with ice. Add 1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice, 1 ounce tomato juice, 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce season with hot sauce. Top off with cold Mexican lager and stir to combine.”
Looking for more home brewed beverage combos? Check out Shandy Is Dandy: A Look at a Summer Time Favorite.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the IBD and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.
Crafted cocktails are all the rage now. Fresh produce is making its way from farmers markets into specialty artisanal cocktails in bars across the U.S. The hand-crafted cocktail movement involves the use of fresh ingredients, homemade mixers and premium liquors, as well as proper ice. Yes, they may be more work, but the end result of a fresh and flavorful libation certainly justifies the means.
We’ve compiled GAYOT’s list of Top 10 Cocktails handcrafted at some of the best bars nationwide by top mixologists. If you want to try to make them at home, we’ve also included the cocktail recipes, too. So, even if you don’t live near these cities, you can still try your hand at mixing these top craft cocktails.
For more cocktail recipes to mix at home, give one of these classic cocktails a try. And be sure to peruse our Complete Guide to Spirits for a detailed look at the best liquors available.
1. Apple Julep
Courtesy of: ARTISAN LOUNGE, Las Vegas, NV, U.S.A.
Try this fruity take on the Mint Julep.
2 oz. cinnamon and apple infused bourbon
1/2 oz. rock candy syrup
1/2 oz. fresh sweet and sour mix
10 fresh spearmint leaves
2-3 thin slices of a red delicious apple
Muddle mint leaves with rock candy syrup and apple in the bottom of mixing glass. Add ice, bourbon infusion, sweet and sour mix and club soda to mixing glass. Gently rock back and forth to combine ingredients. Drop into a highball glass. Add additional ice as needed. Garnish with a mint sprig.
2. Autumn Thyme
Courtesy of: Bar Pleiades, The Surrey, New York, NY, U.S.A.
Fall into autumn with this cocktail.
2 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
2 thyme sprigs
1 dash Fee Brothers peach bitters
Muddle raspberries. Combine vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, raspberries, bitters and one thyme sprig in mixer and shake well. Strain over crushed ice in a rocks glass and add second thyme sprig for garnish.
3. Chartreuse Swizzle
Courtesy of: Clock Bar, The Westin St. Francis, San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
Go green with this citrus-centric cocktail.
1 1/4 oz. green chartreuse
1/2 oz. velvet falernum*
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. fresh pineapple juice
*Falernum is a classic cordial from Barbados that is often rum-based and includes the flavors of lime, ginger, cloves and almonds.
Combine all ingredients in a tall glass. Add crushed ice and stir. Garnish with grated nutmeg and mint sprig.
4. Claret Swizzle
Courtesy of: Naga, Bellevue, WA, U.S.A.
Get tropical with this tiki cocktail.
1 oz. Wray & Nephew Jamaican Overproof Rum
1 oz. Bordeaux Wine Falernum*
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. fresh orange juice
1 oz. fresh pineapple juice
*Bordeaux Wine Falernum
Reduce 1 bottle of Bordeaux blend red wine over medium heat down to 50% with the zest of 6 limes, 20 whole cloves, 2 oz. lime juice and 1 cup of chopped ginger. Once the wine has been reduced, take off heat and allow to cool. Use cheese cloth to strain and make sure to squeeze out the last bits. Add 1 tsp. of almond extract and sweeten the remaining liquid with an equal amount of sugar.
Add all ingredients to a tiki mug or large glass and fill with crushed ice, swizzle to mix and top with additional crushed ice. Then top with 1 ounce of dry red wine. Garnish with a lime and brandied cherry.
5. Fox Rose Fizz
Courtesy of: DRINKSHOP, W – Atlanta Downtown, Atlanta, GA, U.S.A.
Wind down with this whiskey-based cocktail.
2 oz. bonded rye whiskey
1 1/2 oz. club soda
1/2 oz. ginger syrup
1/2 oz. honey syrup
3/4 lemon juice
2 dashes Regan’s Orange bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 slices orange
Muddle oranges with bitters, juice and syrups in a shaker. Add whiskey. Fill with ice. Shake to chill. Strain over fresh ice in tall Collins glass. Top with soda. Garnish with flamed orange peel.
Courtesy of: Mercadito, Chicago, IL, U.S.A.
Add some spice to your palate with this hot cocktail.
1 1/2 oz. Cazadores Reposado tequila
1/2 oz. Domaine de Canton
1 oz. mango puree
2 drops El Yucateco Green Hot Sauce
4 Thai basil leaves
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Shake all ingredients (including three basil leaves) with ice and strain in martini glass. Garnish with remaining Thai basil leaf.
7. Lucy Leave
Courtesy of: The Franklin, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.
Whip up this delectably fruity cocktail.
2 oz. raspberry infused brandy
1/2 oz. Lillet
1/2 oz. demerara sugar
Muddle orange slice and cucumber. Shake and strain into Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fresh ice, an orange slice and a raspberry.
8. Pisco Nuevo
Courtesy of: Sra Martinez, Miami, FL, U.S.A.
The lychees are the highlight of this cocktail, originally created by Sra Martinez in Miami.
1 1/2 oz. Pisco
1/2 oz. St. Germain
1 oz. lychee syrup (simple syrup infused with lychees)
Juice of 1 orange
In a cocktail shaker, combine lychee, orange juice, St. Germain and pisco. Then add lychee syrup to mix and muddle. Shake well and strain into rocks glass with crushed ice. Garnish with an orange slice.
9. The Last Tango in Modena
Courtesy of: Library Bar, The Hollywood Roosevelt, Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A.
This cocktail is berry delicious.
2 oz. Hendrick’s gin
1 oz. 25-year-old aged Balsamic vinegar
3-4 medium strawberries
St. Germain foam
*Foam: Add 1 cup St. Germain, 1 cup egg whites and 1 oz. fresh lime juice into an iSi charger and charge it twice with N2O and shake well.
Muddle strawberries with Balsamic vinegar. Add gin and shake. Strain over ice and top with St. Germain foam.
10. The Rose Hinted Glass
Courtesy of: Cure, New Orleans, LA, U.S.A.
Sip and savor this refined cocktail.
2 oz. Landy VSOP Cognac
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
10 drops rose water
2 mint leaves
3/4 oz. Fennel Tea Syrup
*Fennel Tea Syrup
Add 1 tablespoon fennel seed to 1 cup hot water and steep 5-8 minutes and strain. Add 1 cup of sugar to tea and let cool.
Combine all ingredients. Shake and double strain. Garnish with mint leaf.
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